Amid what proved to be false reports that he was the first president since 2002 not to visit the troops at Christmastime, President Trump met with U.S. soldiers in Iraq in a surprise Christmas day visit.
White House Press Sec. Sarah Huckabee Sanders posted a series of tweets of images and video of the unannounced visit showing Trump arriving at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, meeting one-on-one with soldiers and speaking to the troops, who at one point erupted in enthusiastic chants of "USA! USA!"
"President Trump and the First Lady traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night to visit with our troops and Senior Military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice and to wish them a Merry Christmas," Sanders wrote in the first of a series of social media posts highlighting key moments from the visit.
The press secretary posted footage of Trump's address to the troops, who were clearly charged up to see him:
Sanders highlighted one particularly "powerful moment."
"Powerful moment - Member of United States Army told the President he came back into the military because of him. And President Trump responded, 'And I am here because of you.' I met him after and he gave me the patch from his arm. Incredible," she wrote.
Sanders also retweeted posts by President Trump and his director of social media, Dan Scavino Jr.
"Melania and I were honored to visit our incredible troops at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.!" wrote Trump in a post that included a video montage of his visit to the base.
After their late-night Christmas visit to Iraq, the president and the first lady flew up to Germany to meet with troops and Air Force generals at Ramstein Air Force Base.
Trump posted a statement praising the troops upon returning from his surprise trips to the two bases. "Just returned from visiting our troops in Iraq and Germany. One thing is certain, we have incredible people representing our Country - people that know how to win!" he wrote.
On Christmas Eve, a day before Trump's pre-planned trip — which as AP reported, had been "shrouded in secrecy" — NBC and other left-leaning outlets criticized President Trump Tuesday for supposedly being the first president since 2002 not to visit the troops around Christmastime.
"On Christmas Day, President Donald Trump took part in a long-running practice of presidents who called troops stationed around the country and the world," NBC News reported. "But he broke from a recent tradition of actually visiting troops and wounded warriors. He did so in 2017, when he visited wounded troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Dec. 21 (and invited Coast Guard service members to play golf at his course in West Palm Beach, Florida). By staying home on Tuesday, Trump became the first president since 2002 who didn't visit military personnel around Christmastime."
NBC has since issued an editor's note at the beginning of the piece acknowledging that the premise of the article turned out to be false. "On Wednesday, a day after this article was published, President Trump made a surprise visit to Iraq to greet U.S. troops. It was his first presidential visit to a combat zone." Despite the note, the false title of the piece remains unchanged: "Trump becomes first president since 2002 not to visit troops at Christmastime."
AP's report on Trump's visit couches it in almost entirely contentious terms, focusing on his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from neighboring Syria "despite a drumbeat of criticism from military officials and allies who don’t think the job fighting Islamic State militants there is over." AP's report also contains thinly veiled criticism about this being "his first presidential visit to troops in a troubled region."